NDN COVID-19 file

The beginning of the school year for Plainview Public Schools has been pushed to Monday, Aug. 24, after the district’s superintendent tested positive for COVID-19. 

Less than 24 hours before the first day of school was scheduled to start, the PPS Board of Education hosted an emergency virtual meeting Wednesday to discuss the change in plans after Darron Arlt, superintendent, received his positive test results that morning.

Arlt said the health department deemed him contagious starting 2 p.m. Sunday, and on Monday and Tuesday he came into direct contact with several staff during meetings. He said started experiencing flu symptoms after lunch on Tuesday and remained symptomatic for 48 hours, but feels almost back to normal now.

“My concern is obviously any contagion that could have happened in school the past two days,” Arlt said in the meeting. “We’ve had two days of teacher meetings, with large groups a few different times, then a lot of independent groups and small (group) work. There was only, to my knowledge, one time — and it was during lunch yesterday — where I sat down for maybe 15 minutes and had about five teachers around me within 6 feet, who would be technically recommended to be quarantined.”

The board decided to push the PPS start date from Aug. 13 to Aug. 24 to allow the five exposed teachers to quarantine.

About 50 other staff members were in the building at the time of the exposures, Arlt said. Shortly after the meeting Wednesday, families were notified and all staff were asked to leave facilities for disinfecting.

All staff members, except for custodians, aren’t allowed to return to school until Thursday, Aug. 20, which is 10 days after the exposure. PPS activities, including athletic practices with students, will be able to resume Friday, Aug. 21, with all staff wearing masks.

When students start school on Aug. 24, all staff will be required to wear masks. PPS has been working with the health department on the timeline, Arlt said.

“Obviously, the concern is (if we) bring kids back into school and to potentially have a teacher that’s asymptomatic, but yet a carrier, and expose kids and/or other colleagues,” Arlt said. “We know what that would certainly do to our school year. It would certainly push us back to remote learning for at least a quarter or longer.”

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